School of Earth Sciences - Theses

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    The geochemistry and geochronology of Tanzanian kimberlites
    Chesler, Rachel ( 2012)
    The Tanzanian Craton is host to numerous kimberlite intrusions, although few have been studied in any detail. Due to its proximity to the East African rift zone, this region also provides a unique opportunity to investigate the effect of rifting on kimberlite volcanism. To date, however, no geochemical studies have been conducted on Tanzanian kimberlites, largely due to their altered and weathered nature, and only four intrusions have published age constraints. This thesis seeks to redress these deficiencies by the application of modern high precision analytical techniques to the study of kimberlites from this previously neglected region. The study focused on 30 separate kimberlite intrusions located on the Tanzanian Craton. Due to their highly altered and weathered character, perovskite was used as a proxy to obtain geochemical and geochronological information on the host kimberlites. Perovskite is a common accessory mineral in kimberlites and contains substantial U, Sr and Nd and lesser amounts of Pb and Hf. Consequently, perovskite provides the means to determine both age constraints and initial isotopic signatures for the host kimberlites. Perovskite extracted from the Tanzanian kimberlites was utilised for U-Pb geochronology and analysed for trace element and Sr-Nd-Hf isotopic compositions. Similar to kimberlites worldwide, these samples show extreme enrichment in large ion lithophiles and LREE, whereas they are heavy REE depleted. They are characterised by moderately radiogenic 87Sr/86Sri compositions (0.70268 – 0.70476) and ɛSr values (-14.56 to 4.46), restricted 143Nd/144Ndi compositions (0.51138 to 0.51277) and ɛNd values (1.8 to 3.8), and very restricted 176Hf/177Hfi compositions (0.282058 to 0.282966) and ɛHf values (0.8 to 8.2). All samples plot within the range previously defined for Group I kimberlites. This study provides compelling evidence for the utility of perovskite analysis in highly altered kimberlitic samples that would otherwise be intractable to study. The ages obtained for these samples define two periods of kimberlite volcanism for the Tanzanian Craton. Early Mesoproterozoic kimberlites include the Itanana kimberlite (1083 Ma) and the previously dated Bubiki kimberlite (1097Ma). All other kimberlites for which ages were obtained are significantly younger, with ages ranging from 44-80 Ma. The latter group includes some of the youngest reliably dated kimberlites known; the Kikhomango (44 Ma) and X073 (47 Ma) intrusions. Ages from both the older and younger Tanzanian kimberlites coincide with periods of known kimberlite activity worldwide. Previous studies of the Tanzanian kimberlites have focused on the thermobarometry of garnet macrocrysts derived from disaggregated mantle xenoliths. Garnet compositions vary with proximity to the East African Rift, suggesting that the SCLM in this region was affected by rift related heating prior to kimberlite emplacement. If the source of these kimberlites was within the SCLM, systematic geographic variation in the isotopic and trace element compositions in relation to their proximity to the rift would be expected. This has not been observed in this study, with the entire region displaying no significant geographic variation in geochemical composition. Therefore the current results suggest a deeper source for the Tanzanian kimberlite magmas, below the influence of rifting in the region.
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    The timing and origin of orogenic gold mineralisation in the western Lachlan Orogen, southeast Australia: constraints from 40Ar/39Ar dating and halogen and noble gas geochemistry
    Fairmaid, Alison Maree ( 2012)
    The Ballarat East gold deposit (408t) is the second largest orogenic gold deposit in the Western Lachlan Orogen, southeast Australia. The western Lachlan Orogen is characterised by a thick package of Ordovician turbiditic sedimentary rocks overlying Cambrian oceanic volcanic sequences. The region was variably affected by multiple major deformation/metamorphism and magmatism events during the Cambrian to Devonian. The Ballarat East gold deposit is located in the Bendigo structural zone of the Western Lachlan Orogen and is hosted in Ordovician sediments of the Castlemaine Supergroup. Gold mineralisation in the Ballarat East deposit is sited in quartz and quartz-carbonate veins within goldfield-scale, west-dipping reverse faults. Two major lode types are present: 1) lode type ‘1’ is characterised by arsenopyrite-dominated quartz veins associated with early movement on reverse faults, whereas 2) lode type ‘2’ is related to structurally later, shallow east-dipping, pyrite-sphalerite-galena-white-mica dominated veins, emanating from reverse faults. Previous studies have suggested that gold mineralisation in the Western Lachlan Orogen occurred at ~440Ma, as a result of metamorphic devolatilisation reactions in the lower crust. However the age of mineralisation at the Ballarat East deposit is only broadly constrained to a period between 460 and 370 Ma, and the source of the gold-bearing fluids could include metamorphosed volcanic rocks, sedimentary rocks and/or granites. In order to provide a more robust chronological framework for gold mineralisation at the Ballarat East deposit, several samples of detrital and hydrothermal potassium-rich minerals were collected and analysed by 40Ar/39Ar dating. In addition, fluid inclusions in portions of quartz and quartz-carbonate veins were characterised by micro-thermometry and halogen/noble gas isotopic tracer methods to further constrain the source(s) of the gold mineralising fluids. The 40Ar/39Ar data obtained from detrital muscovite grains yield ages between 530 – 460 Ma and are concordant with previously published detrital ages. The vein muscovite/sericite ages fall into three age groupings as follows: 445 – 435 Ma (lode type ‘1’), 420 – 415 Ma (lode type ‘2a’) and 380 – 370 Ma (lode type ‘2b’). The gold-bearing quartz veins (from both lode types) contain low salinity (average 4 wt.% NaCl eq.) aqueous H2O inclusions and mixed H2O-CO2 fluid inclusions. Fluid inclusion 40Ar/36Ar values range from 322 (close to Air Saturated Water; ~296) up to a maximum of 4503, and 40Ar/36Ar is strongly correlated with Cl/36Ar. Fluid inclusions have variable Br/Cl values between 1.66 10-3 and 2.91 × 10-3 and I/Cl values between 153 × 10-6 and 501 × 10-6, with a strong correlation between Br/Cl and I/Cl. The fluid inclusion 84Kr/36Ar and 129Xe/36Ar values are variable but show a systematic enrichment in the heavier noble gases. The 40Ar/39Ar ages suggest gold mineralisation at the Ballarat East deposit occurred in three main episodes at ca. 445 Ma, ca. 420 Ma and ca. 380 – 370 Ma. All episodes of mineralisation are associated with fluid inclusions of similar composition. This fluid is suggested to reflect a deeply sourced fluid, possibly originating by devolatilisation of altered volcanic rocks (e.g. basalts). In this scenario, the fluid would have acquired additional noble gases and organic Br plus I by interaction with sedimentary rocks, including organic-rich shales that are found beneath and surrounding the deposit. The data are compatible with genetic models for orogenic Au in which gold mineralisation was initiated by metamorphic devolatilisation in the lower crust, linked to Lachlan Orogenesis at ca. 440 Ma.